The 2016 NHL Awards will take place on Wednesday, June 22nd in Las Vegas. Between now and then, we will be making our predictions on who will take home the hardware.
First up for a closer look is the Calder Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top rookie. The finalists are:
D Shayne Gostisbehere , Philadelphia Flyers – It’s rare that a player who starts the season in the American Hockey League becomes a finalist for a major award but Gostisbehere’s impact upon being recalled was just too much to ignore. Despite missing 18 games while playing for the Flyers’ AHL affiliate in Adirondack, the 23 year old led all NHL defensemen in goals (17), assists (29), points (46), and power play points (22). He also set NHL records for most overtime goals by a rookie (4) and for the longest point streak by a rookie blueliner (15 games).
C Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers – The top pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft lived up to his draft status in 2015-16 as he quickly took over as Edmonton’s top centre. Unfortunately for him and the Oilers, he missed 37 games due to a fractured left clavicle. Despite that, the 19 year old still posted 16 goals and 32 assists in 45 games, good for third in team scoring. McDavid also led all rookies with a points-per-game average of 1.07; he was the only first year player to average higher than one point per contest.
LW Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks – Signed as an undrafted free agent last offseason, Panarin made an immediate and significant impact for the Hawks. The 24 year old led all rookies offensively with goals (30), assists (47), points (77), power play points (24), and game winning goals (7). His point total was good enough for a tie for ninth overall amongst all NHL players and second best on Chicago, only behind the NHL’s top point getter, Patrick Kane. Kane, coincidentally, is the last Blackhawk to win the Calder Trophy.
Prediction: This is one the best rookie classes in a long time. All three finalists made more than a typical rookie impact and were among the NHL’s best in certain categories. Had McDavid been healthy all year, he would have had a strong chance but it would be hard to give him the nod since he missed 45% of the season due to injury. Gostisbehere was huge for the Flyers but he also missed considerable time early on so at the end of the day my pick to win the award is Panarin. I think the writers who vote on this award will have too hard of a time looking past a rookie finishing in the top ten in scoring league wide on one of the NHL’s top teams in the regular season.